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Bush administration gives a quiet election
endorsement to Sharon.
JAMES D. BESSER
Baker complained that each time he
visited the region, Sharon — then
housing minister and chief promoter
of the settler movement = announced
This time around, Sharon has posi-
tioned himself as the one man who
can keep the far right-wingers under
control. "Sharon has learned his lesson
admirably," Singer said. "He is doing
his part; that is why you have this
mutual admiration club."
The nod from Washington has not
been lost on Israeli voters. One of
Sharon's strongest points in the cam-
paign is that he has "successfully culti-
vated and managed the relationship
with the United States, and particular-
ly with President Bush," said Marshall
Breger, a law professor at the Catholic
University of America who just
ith Israel's elections only
days away, the Bush
administration is offi-
cially neutral on the
choice facing frustrated Israeli voters.
Unofficially, it's a different story.
U.S. officials have already made
their -preference known — a tacit
endorsement that is having an impact
on the Israeli campaign, although it is
unlikely to be the decisive factor.
In a dramatic break with the pro-
Labor Party efforts of its predecessors,
the Bush administration has quietly
signaled its support for the re-election
of Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Pro-Israel activists say there are a
number of reasons for the administra-
tion's preference, including a
genuine affinity between
Bush administration hardlin-
ers and Sharon. But one rea-
son stands out: Iraq.
"This administration has
an order of priorities," said
Stephen P. Cohen, a leading
peace process activist and
consultant for the Israel
Policy Forum. "The first pri-
ority is Iraq; the administra-
tion has worked out how to
deal with Iraq with Sharon
already, and doesn't want to
President Bush greets Prime Minister Sharon at the
change that factor in mid-
Washington wants exten-
sive Israeli cooperation — including at returned from a three-month teaching
stint in Israel.
least a willingness to consider forgoing
"And that feeds into the view that
retaliation if Saddam Hussein repeats
is the best man to protect Israel's
his 1991 war behavior and attacks
to get things from
Israel, and intelligence sharing. It
Washington and to ward off U.S. pres-
believes it is getting that cooperation
After any war with Iraq, "then it will
And it wants no new surprises on
be a new ball game; the production of
the Israeli-Palestinian front as it walks
quiet will not be the primary goal;
an international tightrope on Iraq.
there are plans that are now on the
"All the administration wants from
burner that will be pushed up."
Israel at the current time is quiet," said
Over the weekend, Deputy Defense
Joel Singer, an Israeli lawyer and one
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, speaking to
of the architects of the first Oslo
the Washington Post, said that on the
agreement. "Sharon has managed to
"day after" the impending war, the
detect this wish, and is providing
Bush administration will turn its
exactly what the administration
attention' to its delayed push for a
Palestinian state — and to controver-
During the first Bush administra-
sial issues such as settlements.
tion, former Secretary of State James